From Twisting Arms To Kissing Pigs,
The Quest For Political Power In America -- In All Its Gore And Glory --
Is Explored In Two-Part Prime Time Series

Show Credits In October 1996, PBS left the press, the pundits, and the presidential hopefuls behind for a rollicking two-night ride on the American campaign trail. VOTE FOR ME -- POLITICS IN AMERICA, the first major television series to explore what it really takes to run for public office, was originally broadcast on October 28 and 29 by PBS stations. Produced by award-winning filmmakers Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, and Paul Stekler, with WETA, Washington, D.C., it's a series that departs from the usual horse race aspect of daily journalism and shows how local culture and customs are reflected in our politics.

VOTE FOR ME is not a high-school civics lesson. Politics, as one veteran campaigner puts it, is "show business for ugly people", and the series assembles a cast of political stars and wannabes as colorful and diverse as America itself. There's the mayor of a major city who kisses pigs at rallies, a profane media consultant who makes Jack the Ripper look warm and fuzzy, a desperate gubernatorial challenger who organizes media events that unfold at 3 AM in a chicken-parts factory, and a novice Congressional candidate who woos voters with her dulcimer and gospel singing.

They're all united in search of victory on election night, and as VOTE FOR ME unfolds, viewers will learn some of the tricks of the trade that don't turn up on the nightly news:

  • In Chicago, what's the easiest way to tear down the opposition's posters.

  • In Atlanta, what gay candidates and their Christian Coalition counterparts have in common.

  • In Honolulu, how to choose the proper lei, carry your biggest campaign sign, and claim the busiest street corner to "sign wave."

  • In Rhode Island, how to get your name listed first on an alphabetical ballot, even if your name is Russo (you legally change it to aRusso).
The American political landscape that VOTE FOR ME discovers in its cross-country tour is a far cry from the angry, dour place we hear so much about on the Sunday political talk shows. It's a place where most voters care less about hot-button ideological positions than about which politician will repave their street and improve their quality of life. It's a place where the conventional wisdom about apathetic voters and irrelevant politicians is belied by the passion of thousands of volunteers of all ages, by the excitement of the half-million state and local races that take place every two to four years, and by all the foibles and serendipity of the democratic process.

VOTE FOR ME captures this exciting, frustrating, sometimes hilarious dance of democracy in a series of sharply-etched portraits of the political scene, leavened with the wit and wisdom of some of America's savviest public servants. Representative Barney Frank declares that "anyone who tells you they enjoy campaigning is either a liar or a psychopath." House Speaker Newt Gingrich counsels a hapless candidate to get a slogan because "I've met you three times and I can't remember your name. There's no hook." The famously cerebral Mario Cuomo talks about how TV has changed campaigning: "There are 79 channels to watch. Click! On this channel they've got wrestling in the mud. Nude women. Stay there for a bit. You want to go back to two hours of a debate between two guys vying for commissioner of deeds?"

Viewers of VOTE FOR ME will find themselves on the front lines of American politics as it is practiced day in and day out: eavesdropping on strategy sessions in hard-fought races, watching smooth talking lobbyists move in for the kill in the legislative feeding frenzy that is the Texas state legislature, and sharing the self-doubt and loneliness of life on the campaign trail with candidates who are driven to win.

From local precincts to the White House, it's not "insider politics," but politics as a mirror that unflinchingly and entertainingly shows who we are as a country and a people.


Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, and Paul Stekler were recently awarded a duPont-Columbia Journalism Award for their production LOUISIANA BOYS -RAISED ON POLITICS, a look at the boisterous political process unique to that state, which was broadcast nationally on the POV series. Among their other films are episodes of the civil rights history series, EYES ON THE PRIZE; the Peabody Award-winning film about the way Americans talk, AMERICAN TONGUES on POV; the Emmy Award-winning LAST STAND AT LITTLE BIGHORN for The American Experience; and L.A. IS IT with John Gregory Dunne for PBS's Travels series.

WETA, Washington, D.C. is series co-producer. David McGowan is executive-in-charge. WETA is the third largest producer of programs for public television, including THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER, WASHINGTON WEEK IN REVIEW and TALKING WITH DAVID FROST. Cultural programming includes IN PERFORMANCE AT THE WHITE HOUSE and such popular series as THE CIVIL WAR, BASEBALL and THE WEST. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO of WETA.

Major corporate funding for VOTE FOR ME has been provided by The CIT Group. Other major funders include The Ford Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service.

VOTE FOR ME is part of The Democracy Project, a PBS initiative to stimulate citizen engagement in civic life and develop and provide viewers with innovative news and public affairs programming with particular emphasis on the 1996 presidential and congressional elections. The project, launched last fall, combines programming, community outreach, education and World Wide Web activities by PBS and member stations.

Series logo designed by Mark Alan Stamaty.

October 1996

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